Popular Utah teacher dies of rare brain disease after community raises $106K


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RIVERTON, Utah — Surrounded by family, Mac Frischknecht took his last breath Jan. 30 after a quick, but brutal, battle with brain disease.

Just before Christmas, the popular Riverton High math teacher was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a rare, degenerative and often fatal brain disorder.

Affecting about one person in every million, CJD usually runs a rapid course. An infected individual will experience failing memory, behavioral changes and eventually complete mental deterioration.

For the father of five, it lasted a little over a month.

Though Frischknecht’s memory and mental capabilities quickly declined while in the hospital, during a moment of clarity, he asked his son to care for his wife and youngest daughter who still lives at home.

“Medical bills — and what other costs are to come — (were) a major stress on him while he was still more like himself, and a major stress on our family,” his son Tyson Frischknecht said.

In an attempt to honor his father’s wish, Tyson Frischknecht created a GoFundMe account* to aid the family with hospital bills and other expenses. One day after the account was created, nearly a thousand people had raised over $50,000.

KSL featured Frischknecht and the community’s support in a Jan. 24 article. Since then — and in the last weeks of Frischknecht’s life — the community raised over $106,000 for the family.

And the outpouring of love stems from all over: from current and former students during Frischknecht’s 30 years in the Jordan School District to members of Frischknecht’s church where he was serving as a bishop when he was diagnosed.

“It’s a huge blessing because, obviously, finances were a stress on my dad,” said Nataya Fielden, Frischknecht’s daughter. “(My mom’s) not left with a bunch of debt. … So it’s been a huge blessing and … she can kind of have a fresh start.”

And those who have donated said they are more than happy to help a man many looked up to as a leader and friend.

If Frischknecht ever came across a dejected student, he’d ask them to remind him of his blood type: B-positive.

Mac Frischknecht. | Courtesy of Tyson Frischknecht

“He’d always want us to remember his blood type so we could ‘be positive’ in any situation we were in,” Fielden said. “He’d always try and make people smile, even if it was a stranger at the store. If they looked like they were having a bad day, he’d try and be nice to them and reach out to them.”

And now, even strangers are reaching out to Frischknecht and his family, hoping to offer their measure of support.

“I do not know this gentleman, yet I wish I had,” wrote one GoFundMe donator. “His story inspires me to be a better dad, husband and now grandfather. His devotion to his family, friends and his career have touched my heart. Mr. Frischknecht, know you are loved by more than you will ever know and that your life has impacted generations.”

The Frischknecht family eating dinner. | Courtesy of Nataya Fielden

And Fielden is sure her father would have returned the sentiment.

“My dad probably would have wanted everyone to know how much he loved them,” Fielden said. “They’ve made a huge impact on his life, and I’m sure he would want everyone to know how much he cares for them.”

Frischknecht’s viewing will be held Thursday, Feb. 8, from 5 – 8 p.m. at Riverton High School at 12476 S. Silverwolf Way.

*Disclaimer: KSL.com has not verified the accuracy of the information provided with respect to the account nor does KSL.com assure that the monies deposited will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit or donation you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk.